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Friendship with God

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You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, ESV)

Observation: James is famous for his comparison and contrast of faith and works.  He says “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) Ouch! He also reminds us that we are to be “do-ers” of the Word (James 1:22).  We are not just to hear the Word and then ignore it.  No, the Word should both affect and infect the way that we do life!  Everything from what we ask God for (chapter 1), to the way we treat others (chapter 2), to the way we speak (chapter 3) is to be guided by the Word of God.  In chapter 4, James adds to the list even those things that we desire.  He points out to us that we often ask God for things that we only want for selfish reasons.  In fact, we do this because we are too tightly bound to this world.  Indeed, we are friends with the world! However, our friendship with the world comes at a cost; it pulls us away from God.  James encourages us to change our affinity and allegiance, and instead “Draw near to God” (James 4:8)

Application:  Drawing near to God comes with a cost – we have to let go of the world and the world’s way of doing things.  We no longer mourn the way the world does. Instead, we have hope even in death.  Likewise, we mourn at what the world rejoices over (James 4:9).  The world finds joy in flagrant disregard for God and His Word.  This, however, causes us to mourn and weep.  James is truly calling us to pick a side. Either we go after the things of this world – which are here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14), or we seek God – who provides life, salvation and hope!  Drawing near to God comes with a cost, but it also comes with a promise.  If we draw near to God, we are promised that he will draw near to us!  When we loosen our grip on the world (and therefore its grip on us!) we are able to cling more tightly to God.  The less we are friends with the world, the more we are friends with God.  Which is better to be?

Prayer:  Lord, help me to withdraw from this world – not from the people in the world or the needs of the world, but from the pull and lure of this world.  May I set my sights on that which you value and draw nearer to you in my daily walk.  May I be as good of a friend to You as You are to me!  Amen.

A Light to the Lost

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We’ve been studying the Gospel of John at Redeemer for the last several weeks, each week seeing a different facet of Jesus’ life and ministry.  In John Ch. 9 we see Jesus as the Light of the world.  In fact, John opens his Gospel with the words, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).  In the Nicene Creed, we profess Jesus as “Light of Light.” Quite simply, we recognize that Jesus is the very source of all light – even when God said “Let there be light!” in the third verse of Genesis, Jesus was its source. Likewise, Jesus is our source of light.  When we baptize someone at Redeemer we give them a lit candle.  This is to signify that Christ is the light that came into the world, and now that they have received that light in baptism, they are to become light-bearers, and bring that light into a dark world.

At Redeemer by the Sea, our mission is to be a “lighthouse to our community and the world.” Even our building has a design that resembles a lighthouse, which is fitting since our church is on top of a hill not far from the ocean.  Clearly we have the light of Christ in our midst, but how are we doing at shining that light into a world of people that seem to be increasingly walking in the dark?  The news reveals to us the kind of darkness that surrounds us, and recent trends in the Church indicate that more and more of this generation are finding themselves wandering away from the church, into a world which spurns the light of Christ.

In the book You Lost Me (2011) author David Kinnaman laments the fact that young adults in increasing numbers do not consider the churches they were raised in as “safe and hospitable places” and that many of those will leave the church and even the faith.  Clearly there are cultural forces at work, he notes, but it’s also clear that the Church cannot just dismiss this problem as a sign of the times and then hunker down in our holy-huddles (my words, but his sentiment).  In fact, he challenges churches to recognize that we are “not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing culture.”

What all this means to me is simple.  It means that the Church, and especially we at Redeemer – with our mission to be a “light-house” – must intentionally find ways to bring the light of Christ to the lost and searching in the world.  We have the Light which brightens our way and directs our steps out of the darkness and into God’s marvelous light! It’s a Light that this generation desperately needs as they search in the dark.  It’s a light that we can’t just keep in our “house” but that we must carry to “our community and to the world.”  Join me in praying that God will make our light shine brightly so that more will see and know Him! And that He will move us to live our calling of being light-bearers.  … Hide it under a bushel? No!

… Illumine us, Lord Jesus.  Amen!